Meat intake, meat cooking methods, and meat-derived mutagen exposure and risk of sessile serrated lesions

Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1244-1251. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa030.


Background: Red and processed meat, recognized carcinogens, are risk factors for colorectal neoplasia, including polyps, the precursor for colorectal cancer. The mechanism is unclear. One possible explanation is the mutagenic activity of these foods, perhaps due to generation during cooking [e.g., heterocyclic amine (HCA) intake]. Few studies have evaluated meat intake and sessile serrated lesion (SSL) risk, a recently recognized precursor, and no study has evaluated meat cooking methods and meat-derived mutagens with SSL risk.

Objective: We evaluated intakes of meat, meat cooking methods, and inferred meat mutagens with SSL risk and in comparison to risk of other polyps.

Methods: Meat, well-done meat, and inferred meat mutagen intakes were evaluated. Polytomous logistic regression models were used to estimate ORs and 95% CIs among cases (556 hyperplastic polyp, 1753 adenoma, and 208 SSL) and controls (3804) in the large colonoscopy-based, case-control study, the Tennessee Colorectal Polyp Study.

Results: The highest quartile intakes of red meat (OR: 2.38; 95% CI: 1.44, 3.93), processed meat (OR: 2.03; 95% CI: 1.30, 3.17), well-done red meat (OR: 2.19; 95% CI: 1.34, 3.60), and the HCA 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQX; OR: 2.48; 95% CI: 1.49, 4.16) were associated with increased risk of SSLs in comparison to the lowest quartile intake.

Conclusions: High intakes of red and processed meats are strongly and especially associated with SSL risk and part of the association may be due to HCA intake. Future studies should evaluate other mechanism(s) and the potential for primary prevention.

Keywords: adenoma; colorectal; etiology; heterocyclic amines; meat; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; sessile serrated lesion.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amines / adverse effects
  • Amines / analysis
  • Amines / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cooking / methods*
  • Dietary Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutagens / adverse effects*
  • Mutagens / analysis
  • Mutagens / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Tennessee / epidemiology


  • Amines
  • Mutagens